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Audio clip from interview with Judith Steele, November 24, 2014

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In this clip, Judith Steele discusses celebrating the High Holidays and how she influenced Clark County School District to allow Jewish children to observe these days without their absence counting against their attendence record.

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Judith D. Steele oral history interview, 2014 November 25. OH-02191. [Audio recording]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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So as far as Clark County School District Jewish educators, you ran into some brick walls or bumps in the road. Were other Jewish educators running into challenges? Oh, in Las Vegas? Yes. Oh, yes. High Holidays?there was no respect. There's no respect today for High Holidays. I'll tell you that in a while, too. But, yes. You had Eddie Goldman and Elise Ax and some of those other people who banded together to create a group of Jewish teachers. I never joined that group because I just felt like?I wasn't exactly sure that the group was organized for the right reasons. That was just a personal experience of that. I absolutely agree that High Holidays and respect for Judaism and children needed to happen. And I didn't feel that Jewish teachers were not promoted because a lot of them were very smart and they were not promoted. It wasn't a matter that?and I didn't like the idea of Judaism being considered a race; I had a lot of difficulty with us being a minority. Now, having said that, I think we could have promoted ourselves by helping each other because we were all there just as other people. But no one used that intellectual strategy. They used other ways. But having said that, the district needed to be forced to deal with and that could have been through the Jewish Federation or other places. It didn't need to be through?to look at we have a Jewish holy day in other cities that people recognize that. We have certain things that children shouldn't be marked absent. I mean, my daughter never forgave gave me for keeping her home for the High Holidays because she couldn't get a certificate at the end of each year because of that. That was big to her in her head when she was little. So now I have to argue with her about letting her kids stay off on High Holidays kind of thing. That's our own family dynamic. But it was because she never felt... And then they gave tests and then you have to make up the tests even though you're excused, but you'd have to make it up. Totally disrespectful. We have a gentleman who came from Harvard that this foundation is underwriting and a professor. A consultant for the Clark County School District who used to work for the school district had a big party for him on Friday night of Yom Kippur. And I objected and I called the superintendent and other people and said, ?You're having a big party on the holiest day and you're inviting everyone to welcome this man and this organization and I have made this possible and I cannot come.? We're so sorry. But they didn't cancel it. They didn't change it. No. There is still a lot of ignorance around that and that needs to be talked through and worked out. And the woman who is in charge of multicultural education for the school district wrote a note saying?she's African American?to the people, ?I cannot go; this is a totally inappropriate day for you to be planning this.? But they still conducted it and had it. And I've made comments about that four times since that's happened. And when people say to me, ?Happy holiday,? I go, ?No, it's not a holiday; it's a holy day.? It's a holy period of time for reflection and it's our confession if you want to relate to it and it's our willingness to grow, not just dumping bad things, but it's our way of looking at what we could do better. And I do. My whole staff knows. I do that kind of stuff.